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Katsi Cook Papers, 1977-2008
10 boxes (4.75 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 528

Abstract:
Midwife, environmentalist, American Indian rights activist. The Papers consist of information about Cook and her midwifery and women's health practice in the Akwesasne Mohawk community on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern New York State and on the adjacent Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. The Papers also contain information about Cook's activism related to environmental contamination and human health and about indigenous rights and environmental justice. Included are materials about the Mother's Milk Project initiated by Cook in 1984 to document and monitor levels of PCBs and other industrial pollutants in the breast milk of Akwesasne women living near the St. Lawrence River. Documentation of Cook's environmental justice and Native American health activism is extensive, and includes writings, grant applications, surveys, reports, and statistical data, as well as articles, clippings, and publication.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection. Original audiovisual materials are closed to research. In some cases, use copies have been made from the originals. Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual materials for which there is no use copy should contact the Sophia Smith Collection to discuss options.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Katsi Cook's unpublished works. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Sherrill Elizabeth Tekatsitsiakwa "Katsi" (pronounced Gudji) Cook is a member of the Wolf Clan of the Mohawk tribe. She was born on the St. Regis Reservation in northern New York State, the youngest of the four children of Evelyn Kawennaien Mountour and William John Cook. Her mother was educated by Catholic nuns, and died when Cook was eleven years old; her father was a captain in the U.S. Marines and a World War II fighter pilot. Cook was delivered by her paternal grandmother who was also a midwife. She was educated at Catholic boarding schools, attended Skidmore College from 1970 to 1972, and then transferred into the first class of women accepted at Dartmouth College. Soon after, stirrings of the American Indian Movement (AIM) sparked a "generational call to consciousness" and she left school. She married Jose Eugenio Barreiro, a Cuban-born academic and indigenous activist, and the first of their five children was born in 1975. She and Barreiro worked with the Kanienkehaka Longhouse Council of Chiefs from 1972 to 1977 and from 1979 to 1983, where she helped write and produce Akwesasne Notes and toured the U.S. and Canada with the White Roots of Peace, a "communications group" that Cook describes as a traveling university through which participants learned Native knowledge and imparted it to others.

Katsi Cook at an Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment Vision Workshop, 2002

Katsi Cook at an Akwesasne Task Force
on the Environment Vision Workshop, 2002

Cook took up midwifery in 1977 following the Loon Lake Conference of the Six Nations, where control of reproduction was designated as a prerequisite to Native American sovereignty. In 1978 she undertook a midwifery apprenticeship at The Farm in Tennessee, followed by clinical training as a women's health specialist at the University of New Mexico. Cook lived briefly in South Dakota, where in 1978 she attended the founding meeting of Women of All Red Nations (WARN), and in Minnesota, where she founded the Women's Dance Health Project in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Cook returned to Akwesasne in 1980, where she practiced midwifery, helped develop the Akwesasne Freedom School, and founded and directed the Women's Dance Health Program (funded by a grant from the Ms. Foundation). When concerns arose among women on the reservation about the safety of breastfeeding, Cook started the Mother's Milk Monitoring Project in 1984, to monitor PCB levels in breast milk and to address the environmental impact of industrial development of the St. Lawrence Seaway Project, begun in the 1950s. The Mother's Milk Project is still extant and provides services and advocacy for residents of Akwesasne (one of the most severely polluted Native American communities), among them inclusion in the Superfund Basic Research Program.

From 1994 to 1998 Cook was a Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Health and Toxicology at the University of Albany School of Public Health. As a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University's American Indian Program during those same years, she also worked on environmental justice issues within the Six Nations Iroquois communities. In 2001 she served as the Dr. T.J. Murray Visiting Scholar in Medical Humanities at Dalhousie University, and she has lectured on the subject of alternative and complementary therapies at the State University of New York at Buffalo Medical School and at Cornell University.

Cook has participated in national and international women's health movements, including service on the board of the National Women's Health Network, involvement in the Nestle boycott, and work with Mayan midwifes in Guatemala. She monitors indigenous rights in the drafting of midwifery legislation and is the founding aboriginal midwife of the Six Nations Birthing Centre where she assists with student training, curriculum development, and community education. Cook is Director of the Iewirokwas Midwifery Program of Running Strong for American Indian Youth. Supported by a Ford Foundation grant, she is currently developing the First Environment Institute to restore indigenous puberty rites as means of advancing maternal and child health on the Akwesasne and Pine Ridge reservations. She is also conducting research with the Indian Health Service and writing Daughters of Sky Woman: A Cultural Ecology of Birth.

For more information see:

Katsi Cook's oral history in the Voices of Feminism Project.

Hoover, Elizabeth. Local Food Production and Community Illness Narratives: Responses to Environmental Contamination and Health Studies in the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne. Dissertation, Brown University, 2010 (in SSC browsing collection)

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Katsi Cook Papers consist of information about Cook and her midwifery and women's health practice in the Akwesasne Mohawk community on the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in northern New York State and on the adjacent Akwesasne reserve in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. The Papers also contain information about Cook's activism related to environmental contamination and human health and about indigenous rights and environmental justice. Included are materials about the Mother's Milk Project initiated by Cook in 1984 to document and monitor levels of PCBs and other industrial pollutants in the breast milk of Akwesasne women living near the St. Lawrence River. Documentation of Cook's environmental justice and Native American health activism is extensive, and includes writings, grant applications, surveys, reports, and statistical data, as well as articles, clippings, and publications.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection. Original audiovisual materials are closed to research. In some cases, use copies have been made from the originals. Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual materials for which there is no use copy should contact the Sophia Smith Collection to discuss options.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to Katsi Cook's unpublished works. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Katsi Cook Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

Katsi Cook began donating her papers to the Sophia Smith Collection in 2005. Periodic additions are expected and may not be reflected in this finding aid.

Processing Information

Preliminary processing done by Burd Schlessinger in 2010 and Maida Goodwin in 2011.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English
Sponsor
Processing of the Katsi Cook Papers was made possible with the generous support of the Bay and Paul Foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Series Descriptions
(1977-2002, n.d.)
.25 linear ft.

This series contains general biographical materials such as clippings and interview transcripts, plus correspondence and class notes related to Cook's education, and a few photographs.

(1985-2003, n.d.)
.25 linear ft.

This series consists of a small amount of personal and professional correspondence sent to Cook by others.

(1992-2004, n.d.)
.25 linear ft.

This series consists of programs, planning materials, packets, and fliers from Conferences, Symposia, and Workshops attended by Katsi Cook. See SERIES VII. SPEAKING for materials about Conferences where Cook was a speaker.

(1977-2005, n.d.)
1 linear ft.

The series contains materials generated by Cook's work as an activist on behalf of the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of residents and the environmental health of the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in New York State in the 1990s. A significant amount of material pertains to industrial contamination of drinking water, specifically by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and Cook's efforts to address this problem at local, state, and national levels. The series includes writings on the subject by Cook and others, studies, reports, surveys, applications for funding, conference materials, articles, and publications.

(1980-2003, n.d.)
.25 linear ft.

This series contains files on organizations and initiatives of interest to Cook, dating from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Most of the materials are related to the environment and human health.

(1979-2002, n.d.)
.5 linear ft.

This series contains funding proposals, reports, correspondence, publications, and other materials related to programs in which Cook participated. They include reports of her Women's Dance Health Program in Minnesota. There are also a variety of materials related to projects and programs at Akwesasne, including the Mother's Milk Project to monitor PCB contamination in human breastmilk. Also included is the First Environment Project and its Iewirokwas Midwifery Program, and the Tsi Non:we Ionnakeratstha/Ona:grahsta' Six Nations Maternal and Child Centre in Ontario, Canada.

(1985-2008, n.d.)
.25 linear ft.

Materials in this series consist mainly of programs and publicity for various speaking engagements, but there are also a few texts of talks given by Cook. They are arranged chronologically.

(1980-2005, n.d.)
.5 linear ft.

This series consists primarily of published versions of articles authored and co-authored by Cook. There are also a few drafts of unfinished works. They are arranged alphabetically by title. See also SERIES IV. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES for articles Cook co-authored with other research scientists as part of the Superfund Basic Research Project.

1.25 linear ft.

This series consists of clippings, scientific articles, reports, and other materials related to subjects of interest to Cook, primarily environmental contamination and health.



The Papers also include computer disks, and videotapes. Consult the Sophia Smith Collection for more information.

Contents List
SERIES I. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS AND PHOTOGRAPHS



General,
1988-2001, n.d.

Box 1
"Katsi Cook, Mohawk Mothers Milk, and PCBs" by Winona LaDuke,
1998


Interviews,
1992-2001


Education



University of New Mexico: Training for Nurse Practitioners and Specialists in Family Planning and Women's Health Care,
1977-78


Cornell University?: NS 115 notes,
1984


Michener Institute Midwifery Program,
1992-93, 1997


Photographs



Katsi Cook,
circa 1992


Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment Vision Workshop,
2002


Jamaica Johnson,
n.d.


SERIES II. CORRESPONDENCE



Personal and professional,
1985-2003, n.d.


SERIES III. CONFERENCES



General,
1998, 2004, n.d.


Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Conference, Sierra Club,
1992


Indigenous Caucus, Symposium on Health Research and Needs to Ensure Environmental Justice,
Feb 1994


United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women,
1995


Workshop on the Effects of Hazardous Substances on Psychological Health,
Sep 1995


Funders' Briefing on Community-Based Activity Linking Environment and Health,
1996


National Leadership Forum on Environmental Education of Health Care Professionals,
Jun 1998


SERIES IV. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES



Aboriginal people and midwifery legislation in Canada,
1998-99


Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment



General



Akwesasne First Environment Restoration Initiative,
n.d.


"Building a Community-Based Research Partnership: Lessons From the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne," Santiago-Rivera et al.,
1998


First Environment Research Projects report,
1998


"A Partnership Study of PCBs and the Health of Mohawk Youth: Lessons From Our Past and Guidelines for our Future," Schell and Tarbell,
1998


Vision Workshop,
8 May 2002


Final Progress Report and Program Valuation,
May 2003


Children's Environmental Health Network, Research Committee,
1996-2000


Community Advisory Board, Environmental Health Sciences Center, University of Rochester Medical Center (EHSC of the URMC),
1998

Box 2
Cornell University



General,
1995-98


Funding proposal, "Cornell Native American Bridge to Scientific Achievement,"
2001


Great Lakes Science Advisory Board Workgroup on Ecosystem Health,
1996


Indigenous Health Research Development Program, Elders and Healers Roundtable: "Ethical Guidelines for Aboriginal Research,"
2005


Midwifery Transitional Council, Ministry of Health, Ontario,
1993


National Environmental Justice Advisory Council,
1999-2000


National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): National Children's Study,
2002


National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)



General,
1994-98


National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council,
1996


Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) at Akwesasne



General,
1977-98, n.d.


Alcoa site,
1990, n.d.


Environmental Justice Community-Based Research Grantee meetings and workshops,
1995-97


"Communities at Risk: Contaminated Communities Speak Out on Superfund,"
n.d.


Mt. Sinai School of Medicine Study,
1980-81


Funding applications



General Motors Foundry at Massena site [title page missing],
circa 1997

Box 2/3
"Exposure to and Body Burdens of PCBs from Toxic Waste in a Population of Native American Women and Infants," Fitzgerald and Chetwynd,
1990


"Dietary Exposure to PCBs from Hazardous Waste,"
1991


Breastmilk monitoring study continuation [title page missing],
circa 1992


"PCB and DDE Exposure Among Native American Men from Contaminated Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife," Brix and Chetwynde,
1992


"PCBs and the Well-Being of Mohawk Children and Youth,"
1994


Reports and papers



Miscellaneous,
1993-99


Fish Consumption [title page missing],
circa 1993


National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)



Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP) at Akwesasne



"Fish Consumption and Breast Milk PCB Concentrations among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne," Fitzgerald et al.
1998

Box 3
National Longitudinal Study of Environmental Effects on Child Health and Development Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
2002


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC)



"Chemical Contaminants in Fish from the St. Lawrence River Drainage..." NY State DEC Technical Report,
1990


"Chemical Contaminants in the Milk of Mohawk Women From Akwesasne," NY State Dept of Health,
1992


New York State Department of Health



"Biological Monitoring Among Native Americans with Dietary and Residential Exposure to PCBs: The Roles of Community Involvement and Notification," Brix et al.,
1995


"Fish PCB Concentrations and Consumption Patterns Among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne," Fitzgerald et al.,
1995


Project Earth Health 2000 / Earth Day XXVI, "First Nations First Environment - Environmental Health and Indigenous Peoples": funding proposal,
2000


St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Tribal Environmental Health Activities Program: funding proposal,
1995


Sierra Club Great Lakes,
1994


State University of New York at Albany,
1994-97


Women of All Red Nations (WARN),
n.d.


Miscellaneous and fragments



SERIES V. ORGANIZATION FILES



Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Child Health Initiative,
1996-97


Center for Children's Health and the Environment,
1998


Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, Inc: Environmental Health Monthly,
1994-98


Environmental Grantmakers Association,
1995, n.d.

Box 4
Friends of the Earth,
1980-82


Indigenous Women's Network, Emerging Activist Leadership Program,
1998


Physicians for Social Responsibility,
1994-98


Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada,
2001-03, n.d.


SERIES VI. PROGRAMS



Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Tribal Environmental Health Activities,
1995-2002


Akwesasne Environmental Health Survey



General,
1992, n.d.


Completed survey forms,
1995, n.d.


Akwesasne Mother's Milk Project



General,
1986-91, n.d.


Workshop,
1992


Reports,
1985, n.d.


Analysis of samples and data,
1984-93, n.d.


Akwesasne First Environment Communication Project



General,
1995, n.d.


Correspondence and reports,
1991-98, n.d.


First Environment; newsletter,
1992


Retreats,
1996-97


Workshop "Hot Flashes About Menopause,"
1996


Akwesasne Women's Health Program



Funding proposal,
1981


Women's Dance Project reports,
1983-85


First Environment Project



General,
1996-97, n.d.


"Dance of the Healers": Traditional Healing and Midwifery Conference,
Mar 1997


Funding proposals



Bennett Family Foundation,
n.d.


Running Strong for American Indian Youth,
1998

Box 5
Seventh Generation Fund,
1995


Iewirokwas Midwifery Program



General,
1998-2001


Workshop: "Understanding Trauma, Addiction, and Eroticized Rage,
9 Mar 2001


Tsi Non:we Ionnakeratstha/Ona:grahsta' Six Nations Maternal and Child Centre



General,
1997-98, n.d.


Search Conference,
1996


Women's Dance Health Program [Minnesota]



General,
1979-82


Women's Dance Cycle Calendars,
1984-85


SERIES VII. SPEECHES



"The Seven Generations: Community Epidemiology and Environmental Protection in Indian Country - Lessons From a Mohawk Women's Health Project," American Public Health Association,
Nov 1985


"Menopause Workshop,"
Nov 1992


"Midwifery," Women and Wellness Conference,
Mar 1994


"A Magic Dwells in Each Beginning" workshops,
1995, 1997


"Poisons in Our Midst: Environmental Health in Native Communities" Native Voices Symposium on Contemporary Native American Issues,
Mar 1995


"Medicine Healing and Traditional Knowledge," Indigenous Knowledge, Embracing Our Mother Conference, SUNY Buffalo
25-26 Oct 1996


"Flowing and Navigating: A Midwife's Journey," keynote, Midwives Association of North America,
1996


"Women's Health and the Environment," Environmental Risk and Indigenous Knowledge Systems Traditional Medicines Conference,
Sep 1996


"Lessons from the Great Ancestral Medical Traditions," panel at A New Holistic Medicine for the 21st Century conference,
Nov 1998


"Reaching the Underserved" panel at Midwives Association of North America,
Nov 1998


Workshop and Talking Circle at Dancing the Path: A Healing and Wellness Conference,
Nov 2000


"Aboriginal Midwifery: Advancing the Field of Vision" panel at The Art of Birthing 2 Conference,
Apr 2001


Dancing the Path,
2002


"Lies, Secrets, and Silences" Training Workshop for Caregivers Who Work with Aboriginal Women Who Are Survivors or Intergenerational Survivors of Residential Schools,
31 Mar-1 Apr 2004


"The Breath of Life" keynote address, Canadian Association of Midwives,
Nov 2008


"Women Are the First Environment": testimony by Katsi Cook on behalf of the mothers and infants of Akwesasne,
n.d.


SERIES VIII. WRITINGS






Miscellaneous short pieces,
n.d.


Articles for Indian Country Today collected in America is Indian Country: Opinions and Perspectives from Indian Country Today,
2005


"Born Into the Hands of Our Own People," in American Indian Millennium: A Special Edition of Native Americas Journal,
2002


"Cancer, the Environment, and Environmental Justice" with Tyson et al., Cancer, Vol. 83, No. 8
Oct 1998


"The Coming of the Anontaks" in Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America,
1997


"Cycle Awareness: The Earth, The Moon, and You": typescript,
n.d.


"Fish Consumption and Breast Milk PCB Concentrations Among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne," Fitzgerald, Hwang, Deres, Bush, Cook, and Worswick, American Journal of Epidemiology,
1998


"Fish PCB Concentrations and Consumption Patterns Among Mohawk Women at Akwesasne," Fitzgerald, Hwang, Brix, Bush, Cook, and Worswick, Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology,
1995


"Holistic Risk-Based Environmental Decision Making: A Native Perspective," with Arquette et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, Supplement 2,
Apr 2002

Box 6
"Indian Pre-Natal Care": drafts,
n.d.


"In the Family Ways": drafts,
n.d.


"A Native American Response," in Birth Control and Controlling Birth: Women-Centered Perspectives,
circa 1980


"Through the Women's Door," Daybreak,
Midwinter 1988


"Using the Berry Plants for Women's Nutrition and Medicine," Indian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2,
May-Jun 1984


"Woman In All Her Seasons/Menopause: A Native Woman's Dialogue," with Maggie Hand, Indigenous Woman Vol. II, No. I,
n.d.


"Woman With Child/Pre-natal Nutrition: Some Old Indian Ways," Indian Studies,
Winter 1985


"The Women's Dance" and "Woman's Thread," in New Voices From the Longhouse: An Anthology of Contemporary Iroquois Writing,
1989


"Women's Dance: A Women's Health Book": outlines,
n.d.


SERIES IX. SUBJECT FILES



Colonization



Ecosystem Health and Remedial Action Plans (RAP)



Environmental Contamination



Environmental Contamination and Animal Health



Environmental Contamination and Human Health


Box 7
Environmental Contamination and Mental Health/Social Impacts



Health, general


Box 8
Menopause



Midwifery



Research Protocols



Traditional Ecological Knowledge



Workshops



AUDIOVISUAL MATERIALS



Computer disks


Box 9
Audiovisual materials


Box 10
OVERSIZE MATERIALS



Posters and photographs, 2000, n.d.; Daybreak Vol 2, Issue I, midwinter 1988; Healing Words, Vol 2, No.1, Fall 2000
1998, 2000

Flat File Drawer 21
Akwasasne Notes Vol. 8 No. 2, Early Summer, 1976; Vol. 9, No. 5, Dec 1977
1976-77

Flat File Drawer 21

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Akwesasne Indian Reserve (Québec and Ont.) -- Social conditions
  • American Indian Movement -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Cook, Katsi
  • Environmental health -- New York (State)
  • Indian reservations -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Indian women -- North America
  • Indian women -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Indians of North America -- Health and hygiene -- New York (State) -- Akwesasne
  • Indians of North America -- New York (State) -- Akwesasne
  • Midwives -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Mohawk Indians -- History -- Sources
  • Mother's Milk Project
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls -- Environmental aspects
  • Public health -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Reproductive health -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Reproductive rights -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Saint Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation (N.Y.) -- Social conditions
  • Women environmentalists -- United States -- Biography
  • Women of All Red Nations
  • Women's health services -- United States -- 20th century


APPENDIX: Acronyms
  • ATSDR = Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • EHSC of the URMC = Community Advisory Board, Environmental Health Sciences Center, University of Rochester Medical Center
  • NICHD = National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health
  • NIEHS = National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH
  • NYDEC = New York State Division of Environmental Conservation
  • SBRP = Superfund Basic Research Program
  • WARN = Women of All Red Nations

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